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Often, friends and family of an individual who is dealing with a mental health or addictions crisis may not know how to intervene or direct the person to proper treatment. Recognizing that early intervention is vitally important and can greatly increase the chances of a positive outcome for a youth in crisis, the NYS Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors (CLMHD) implemented its first statewide Youth Mental Health First Aid® (YMHFA) Instructor Training Program in 2014.
YMHFA is an 8-hour training designed by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, which teaches community members how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. The training reviews typical adolescent development, introduces common mental health challenges, and teaches a five-step action plan for helping young people in both non-crisis and crisis situations.
The Conference’s goal in 2014 was to create a network of YMHFA instructors across New York State who would be responsible for establishing safe community spaces to speak openly about mental health and substance use disorders. We wanted to help break down the barrier of stigma that may prevent children and youth from revealing their thoughts and feelings and getting help early. In 2016, to reinforce the sustainability of the initiative, the Conference created a statewide YMHFA Support Network to offer instructors an online space to exchange ideas and best practices, promote their trainings, solicit co-facilitators, and obtain YMHFA manuals at no cost.
Each year, CLMHD will opens a competitive application process to select candidates to participate in an intensive certification program conducted virtually by trainers from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. Upon graduation, these new instructors will be equipped to teach the YMHFA program to a variety of audiences, including parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring community members at large. In 2020, the Conference began offering Adult MHFA instructor trainings, in addition to YMHFA.
Interested in hearing about the next application opening? Sign up to receive the Conference's weekly e-News - it's where we make our initial announcement about the annual program.